Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideas. Please share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip. If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.
One of my writing heroes is the late James J. Kilpatrick. He wrote a syndicated newspaper column, The Writer’s Art, and published a book by the same name. Famously, he had three pieces of advice for writers new and old, “Read your copy. Read your copy. Read your copy.” Simply reading one’s written material allows us to catch problems with flow, syntax, grammar, and spelling.
Today, I’m thinking of a corollary to Mr. Kilpatrick’s admonition because of an event that occurred yesterday. That warning is, “Wear your safety glasses. Wear your safety glasses. Wear your safety glasses.”
Regret is a terrible thing. The crazy part of this story is that, as I was walking across the shop to perform the function that led to my injury, I was thinking, “I’m going to be working over my head. I should protect myself, especially my eyes.”
I was putting up some new hatches in the place I store empty Festool Systainers and Festool hand tools not currently in use. In the process of making these hatches, screws for the hatch side of the hinge are invariably too long and have to be shortened. Now, I could do that in some really neat, fancy fashion, but my want is to get it over with quickly, so I use a 4″ angle grinder. There is about a quarter of an inch of screw sticking through, and it takes about three seconds to grind it off. The process, however, creates a hot little remnant that sometimes burns right into the wood and sometimes goes flying who-knows-where. That’s typically not a problem when working on a benchtop, but, above your head? That’s a different matter!
The craziest part of all was, in my advance thinking, I even thought, “Man, if that slag got on my cornea (clear part of the eye), it would be curtains for that eye.”
But, I was in a big hurry, as I usually am, and I had reading glasses on and, having planned ahead, I thought I’d be really careful.
I squinted so hard that the upper lids were pressed against my face just below my right eye, causing the hot screw tip to burn me in three places.
There were 4 screws to grind down, and the first three went flawlessly. Few things are more dangerous to one’s behavior than success, and the success on those three screws may have led to some complacency. Whatever the cause, I got to the fourth one and ZING! Out flies the hot piece of metal, and it’s headed straight for my right eye. Thank God in Heaven for the autonomic nervous system, the complex network that controls all of the body’s functions that we don’t think about: breathing, heartbeat, and our bodies’ functions in the face of danger. Before I even knew there was a problem, my eyelid had slammed shut, leading to the three burn marks you see, which represent folds in the heavily-squinted eyelid.
I went upstairs to get a good look in the bathroom mirror, praying all the way, and was impressed with how little damage was present. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much pain, either. And, thankfully, there was no damage to the actual eyeball.
Clearly, it could have been much worse. And, much more painful.
There was a little more grinding to do, so I reached for the nearby safety glasses, this time, and finished the job.
Right after I said a prayer of thanks for my deliverance.
Happy New Year!
The stupidest part? Safety glasses were right next to the table saw, just two steps away.
New hatches, not yet assigned Festool equipment.
Now, if I’d been really smart, I would have put on my face shield for full protection!
Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.